03/12/2007, 00.00
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Islamic schools: graduates return as teachers, capable of little else

Debate is brewing in Indonesia over the role of the 16 thousand Islamic collages, attended by millions of young people. Experts denounce that graduates are incapable of taking on external work and remain as tutors. Significant numbers become victims of radical positions.

Jakarta (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The 16 thousand Islamic Collages need to better prepare students for entrance to the jobs market after their diploma.  That’s the outcome of research carried out by Kantata Research Indonesia.  M. Khoirul Muqtafa, social transformation director, observes that today “Graduate students mostly become instructors in other Islamic boarding schools after graduation”. Many of graduates adapt poorly to society because they have few skills with which to work. Others finish up involved with extremist groups who carry out attacks: Basri, a perpetrator of violence in Poso, Central Sulawesi, and Amrozi, who was involved in the Bali bombing, had graduated from local Islamic boarding schools.

Mugtafa continued “those who have been taught with rigid ... theological teachings in their schools were prone to be 'abused' by radical doctrine, which includes strong anti-western views, after they graduated”. “I have met several teachers from Islamic boarding schools in Indonesia. Many have become more protective of radicalism”.

Students live for the duration of their studies in these schools which are often funded by private investors,

Khofifah Indar Parawansa, Chairwoman of Muslimat NU., Nahdlatul Ulama’s women’s wing, is less pessimistic.  The conservative Islamic group’s primary function is teaching the Koran, but they are also involved in social initiatives (schools hospitals assistance to the poor) and count at least 30 million members.   Khofifah said she had yet to find any examples of extreme teachings inside Islamic boarding schools in Indonesia, adding that their collective objective was to teach people to “live in harmony”. “I am yet to find a student who has been taught to build bombs or implement radicalism. Not just Islamic schools, but all religious institutions in Indonesia teach their students to promote harmony”.

But opinions on the role and results of Islamic school education are diverse.   Bima Arya Sugiarto, professor at the University of Paramadina, observes that “graduates are mostly young people. It would be better if they could join a political party to channel their political aspirations, rather than being exposed to violent teachings”.

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